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Shortage of Japanese parts shuts GM truck factory

March 17, 2011 | 11:49 am

General Motors said Thursday that it will suspend production of Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks at a factory in Shreveport, La., for at least a week starting Monday because of a shortage of parts coming from Japan.

About 900 employees work at the plant. The workers will file for state unemployment benefits and will also receive some supplemental pay from GM that will bring their income to about 70% of their regular wages, according to the automaker.

All of the major Japanese automakers have suspended production in Japan because of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation last week, but GM's closure was the first indication that damage to the auto parts supply chain would affect production in the United States.

The auto industry is a global business, and most vehicles are assembled from parts coming from a variety of countries.

"The supply chain is vulnerable," said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive. "It is a fragile system. Parts are built specifically for one vehicle, and if you can't get that one part, it isn't going to get built. It is like a jigsaw with 20,000 parts and you can't leave the factory with a missing piece."

GM said that it would "resume production at Shreveport as soon as possible, and at this point, we have sufficient vehicles to meet customer demand."

"Like all global automakers, we will continue to follow the events in Japan closely to determine the business impact, working across the organization to maximize flexibility, supply the most critical
operations, and effectively manage cost," the company said.

GM declined to identify which parts it needed to produce the trucks.

"As in any part-shortage situation, we don't detail the part or supplier for competitive reasons," said Sherrie Childers Arb, a GM spokeswoman.

The automaker has not determined when it might start production again, she said. 

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-- Jerry Hirsch

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com
Twitter.com / LATimesJerry

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